Our son Z is nine years old but really, emotionally, he is four. Confusing I know, but it is reality of raising a child who has been emotionally stunted by his past. Z can throw a tantrum unlike any child I have ever seen. In fact, I hope I never see another child throw a “Z Tantrum”. Nothing about his behavior would indicate that he has graced the earth with his presence for a solid nine years. Z has thrown these fits since the beginning. Unlike T, Z never had a honeymoon period. His behaviors cropped up on his very first overnight visit. I have seen him throw tantrum after tantrum but nothing quite like his fit last weekend.
Our family decided we would head down to Oklahoma to assist with the tornado relief in Lone Grove. A very unusual February tornado had torn through this little town destroying many homes. Hubby and I decided it would be a good experience for both us and the boys. Hubby had some vacation time to burn and the boys both had four day weekends from school. So, we packed up the van with all our donation items and enough clothes and personal items to get the four of us through a four day weekend in tornado ravaged, Lone Grove, Oklahoma. We made sure to offer up a great lecture on the importance of compassion and hard work and then we headed out.
Most of the weekend was rather uneventful and the boys were relatively calm until Monday morning when it was time to pack up and head home. Our kids don’t transition well, especially when it comes to a transition away from something they were enjoying. Z was rather moody all morning throwing attitude left and right. I, being pregnant, have a very low tolerance for attitude so I wasn’t as patient with Z as I would have liked. Z toppled T’s hotel room fort and then blamed it on T. Hubby and I politely asked Z to apologize to T eliciting a heap of attitude that involved a round of why everything is T’s fault. We proceeding to ask Z to spend 10 mins sitting quietly in the hotel bathroom. (Usually we send him to the stairs and he sits there for 10 mins but the bathroom was all we had at the moment.) This bathroom request sent Z into the largest tantrum we’ve seen from him yet. To make a long story short, we endured an hour and a half of Z screaming, flailing, swearing, name-calling, a load of “I hate you”, three physical restraints, some hotel wall destruction, many apologies to hotel staff, and a final flailing episode resulting in Z slamming his head on the plastic sidewall on the inside of our minivan after being carried there by Hubby. The bump on the noggin finally ended the tantrum for Z. He cried a bit and then he settled down and took a long nap. Here is the unfortunate thing, the bump on the head didn’t end the tantrum for us.
Being the parent means that these kinds of episodes stick to you. You spend hours together afterward, replaying events in your mind, asking one another how it could have been handled differently, how the situation could have been diffused. It seems that Hubby and I are always replaying game tape in our minds, trying to evaluate our strategies. We’ve read more books than we can remember and diligently attempt every suggestion we get from our adoption worker and yet our kids are still damaged. We want so badly to be the ones who can heal the wounds and we want to have all the answers but we don’t. Hubby and I are both still in our twenties parenting children who were born when we were in high school. We don’t have all the tricks. We work hard at working together and at staying calm and trying to show our children that they are loved even when they are unlovable. Believe me, Z was not easy to love on Monday but he was still mine. No matter how big the tantrums get he will always be mine and the only steadfast parenting tactic I have is to keep reminding him of that. At the end of the day we are a family and no one can change that.